By Jessica Marszalek – Herald Sun -
Website offers ways people can avoid using power
Use blankets, jumpers and exercise to keep warm
Charities say advice is patronising to the poor
PEOPLE should wear jumpers, use blankets, play board games and walk more to save on energy bills this winter, a Federal Government website says.
But the suggestions are “very condescending” and overlook the cost of living struggles of many Victorian families, organisations that help the vulnerable say.
The Living Greener website tells people that choosing jumpers and blankets over heating, board games over video games, and walking and cycling over driving “can make a difference to how much winter’s bite will hurt your wallet”.
It also suggests drawing up shopping lists will prevent food being wasted.
Having fun “unplugged”, such as playing board games instead of the Xbox, will also save on bills.
“During winter’s coldest months, many of us chill out watching TV, playing gaming consoles, or cooking a hearty meal,” it says.
“Most of this fun comes with a price tag – on the planet and our energy bills.”
But St Vincent de Paul policy and research manager Gavin Dufty said low-income people used 20 per less power than the average family and had to be frugal because they were worried about being disconnected.
“The information … pre-supposes people have choices in their energy consumption,” he said.
“Many people don’t have a choice.”
Victorian Council of Social Service chief executive Cath Smith said people in rented houses could do little about their drafty, energy-sapping surrounds.
And those struggling the most likely couldn’t read the advice.
“Most of those doing it tough probably aren’t going to be logging into a website anyway,” she said.
“They won’t be able to afford to have broadband at home.”
Families last week began getting Federal Government compensation payments to help them pay extra costs for electricity, gas and groceries, set to rise about $10 a week under the July 1 carbon tax.